So here's the week that was...
...received a phone call at work. Recognized my wife's cell phone number, thought it odd of her to call the office before my lunch break, and picked it up.
"The car's dead. I'm at your sister's place, stuck in the driveway."
I grimaced. "Well...I'm at work."
"Considering how I called you there..."
"Okay, well try and start it with me listening."
I heard a clickety-clickety-bzzzz, and nothing more. Then my wife said, "Any ideas?"
"Sounds like a dead battery. Gonna have to call your step dad and have him replace it. I'll pay him back after work."
"Well...I don't have time for this!"
"Would you rather walk?"
"Very funny." Click. I dropped the phone onto its base, tried to refocus on the doldrums of Quality Control. Tried not to think about my book release.
At that moment, in a section of town considered precarious by many, three young kids, the oldest being a day or two shy of four years old, the youngest, a little girl hobbling on knees barely mature enough to support her weight, were spotted walking hand in hand along the sidewalk. Three soggy diapers clinging to their waists and nothing more, they were stumbling barefoot under rainy skies in the direction of a busy intersection. And Children's Services were called...
A few minutes passed, the phone rang again. My wife's number. I released sigh, considered my options, picked it up on the third ring.
"Wait till lunch and I'll see what I can do."
"Shut up and listen! Our social worker called. ...there's three of them! She's not even sure where they live yet! I asked her and she said Mars for all she knew! ...the oldest is still in diapers!"
I held the phone out from ear. "I'm not following and you're giving me a headache. Is the car running yet or not?"
I listened as she caught her breath, no doubt silently counting to ten in order to explain the situation without shouting. Telling herself to be patient, she was speaking to a male after all. Then, "I got a call a minute ago. They picked up three kids walking through town in nothing but diapers. They have no idea where they come from, but they're wanting us to take them in until they figure out what's going on."
My turn for a breath. "Did you say three?"
"Are you kidding me? There is no way..."
"Look, I know. But I really want to do this. The little girl's only like, a year old."
I grew quiet. Turned and looked out my office window. Watched the rain falling like a plague. Imagined walking through it with nothing on. Wondered what the temperature was. Then closed my eyes, cursing under my breath while offering my computer a nod.
Later that evening I watched from the kitchen table as three little people quickly took over my home. Already caring for our own three kids, we'd just added three more. A little boy who they guessed to be four. His younger brother, a possible two year old hiding under a head of bobbing curls the color of straw. And a little girl, one-ish, who'd maybe taken her first steps a week earlier. All of them, now bathed and clothed in hand-me-downs from the basement, screaming and playing and running in circles around the family room.
My wife joined me at the table, a fatigued grin on her face.
"Do we know where they're from yet?" I asked.
"They tracked down the mother. She was passed out on the couch. These guys made it downstairs from a third floor apartment. Decided to go to the store to get some food."
I huffed. "So I take it we can't give 'em back for a while."
Her gaze met mine from across the table. "Thank you for saying yes."
"The oldest one is still pooping in his pants."
"I can fix that."
"It'll be tougher than a car battery."
"It'll be fine."
And it was then, amidst the mayhem of vagabond toddlers from another planet, when my oldest son entered the family room, his acoustic guitar cradled under an arm.
Without a word, he sat down on the floor and began playing. The chorus from "Stairway to Heaven." Nearly the entire scale to Dave Matthews's "Crash," followed by something called Five Finger Death Punch, a name I found disturbing, but a tune worthy of tapping a foot to.
And as he played, the kids quieted down. They stopped running. Stopped screaming. Sat down next to my son. And listened.
The house became a home once again. I offered my son a wink. And my wife, looking ever more like the cat who snagged the canary, leaned toward me and said once again, "It'll be fine."
Thanks for reading...